Tag Archives: books

On Re-Reading

3 Feb

I often find myself wanting to re-read texts I read and was moved by as a younger adult. It is a delicate thing to do and I am wont to approach texts I have already read with apprehension. There are some books that should belong to our youth and remain there. To re-read a text which has touched us so intimately as to help form us in our younger years is a dangerous, often double-edged sword.

It is whimsical of me to believe that texts come to us at certain moments in our lives for a reason. A personal quirk of mine but I have found that so often a book that I have been meaning to read calls to me at certain moments in my life when I need it the most. So, to re-read a text like this can be disillusioning first of all. To read something at a time when it is not calling to you can make the text seem less magical, less important.

Lately, however, I have been feeling called to a nostalgic reading life. In conversations with friends on books I have loved that I wish they would read and love as well, I am drawn to these texts which found their way into my heart. There are some books which I habitually read every few years or so: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (though it has been far too long for this last title to be re-read).

These are my favorites, ones which every time I revisit welcome me back with open and loving arms. But there are others which I have re-read that lose their luster the more I read them: Catcher in the Rye by Salingers, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, and, often, books I read as a child (The Secret Garden was much different than I remember).

I decided to give it a try again and I just finished re-reading “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. A novella I read in undergrad, in a Women’s Lit class I’m assuming. I remember reading this book through a feminist lens. I still believe it but as a young 20-something, and I don’t know how it is possible, I missed just how torturous it was for Edna to fall in love with Robert. Maybe it is my life experiences which have taught me more about life and love, but when I first read this I didn’t understand why she swam out to the ocean.

In this second reading, I felt almost compelled to cry for Edna at her tragic position in life. A woman who longs to be free to love who she wants, to be set free by divorce to be with the man she has fallen in love, but who can never be free. She cannot live her life as a free woman and having found her new independence and freedom so good, realizes that without it she cannot live any longer.

It’s incredibly depressing, of course, but in those moments when she is living in her delusions in her own little house–her room of her own–and she flourishes in her art, in herself, in growing and becoming her own person–we see that it is worth it to live a life like that. We take from Edna a thirst for living our lives on our own terms, to taking our bad decisions and doing our best to move forward and do what we can to get back on the path we first started.

I am so glad that I re-read this book and I’m looking forward to taking a chance on some other books I read when I was young and naive.


Banned Books Week

29 Sep

This week is banned books week. I know that I’ve blogged about it before but this week something very odd happened: While I was working, and consequently had just finished putting up my banned books week display at work, a man came in and purchased an audiobook. Later I found out that the title he purchased for $10.00 was “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan. I found out from a coworker that he had purchased the book with the intention of throwing it away saying that he did not want children to stumbled upon this offensive book.

Sometimes banning a book means writing a letter to a school or to a library. And sometimes banning a book is seen in the action of simply not providing access to materials. On a recent visit to a local library I found that they did not own many of the books on the frequently banned books list from ALA (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks)

In America we take our freedom and rights for granted, I think. We assume we have the right to demean people, to say hateful things, and, that because we have our right to our opinion that we may impose it on others. When I impose my views of the world on a young reader I am telling them to only look at the world from my eyes instead of their own. If it takes a village to raise a child why would we want all the villagers to think the same?

And I know that many of these instances of censorship stem from love. But it is a disturbing kind of love to me, one that forbids growth and discovery. It IS true that books are seeds. I have found in reading books with friends that we do not always glean from books what others glean. Some seeds that are planted in my mind after reading a book might have nothing to do with the book or what the book was about. Something in the book stirs a thought in my mind, maybe one that I had always had or maybe one that I had never had. I can understand why a patron or concerned citizen may find this dangerous but I disagree: without the freedom to read any book that we want we are stunting our nation’s growth.

The Audio Book

7 Jul

Audio books: How to get started reading them

Before 2014, my commute tended toward an average of 20 minutes a day. Sometimes it was about 30 minutes but generally speaking, it was a short commute. Typically I listened to music because, at the time, I thought audiobooks were just too…..difficult.

I’ve heard the excuse before: I don’t listen to audio-books because I can’t pay attention.

I couldn’t either. The first few audio-books I listened to were tedious. I felt like sometimes I didn’t even care what was going on in the book or sometimes I’d just drift in and out.

In 2014 I started a new job which gave me a new commute time of around 40 minutes. Sometimes it’s even 45 minutes. That’s 90 minutes a day of driving. Music got really old, really fast. So I decided to just give some audio-books a try.

I mentioned fading in and out of audio-books. It’s true, in the beginning I did. But like reading and any other new skill–listening to a book requires patience and time. Listening to a book is much different than reading a book. For one, it’s a lot slower. And two, you’re usually multitasking so listening becomes even more of a skill you’ll need to acquire. For a lot of people I’m sure this isn’t a problem. But because I’ve heard this excuse from not only patrons but friends, too, I’m guessing this is a widespread myth that some people just “can’t do” audio-books.

My recipe:

  • Read when you’ll have 30+ minutes to listen. Anything less and you’re really not going to absorb much
  • Read only when you’re on the highway or on a drive that is very familiar to you: you WILL forget you are listening to a book if you are trying to also navigate and follow a GPS
  • Choose books that you find interesting: EMPHASIS ON INTERESTING. I love reading “big L” literature but I find that I do not love listening to “big L” literature. Maybe this will change as I become a better listening but so far it doesn’t work for me. I get lost in the language and description.
  • Find what you love and go for it but give yourself some time to explore: I have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy but on audio–it’s perfection for me. Something else I’ve learned: I love mysteries. I only happened upon this because I decided to give “The Cuckoo’s Calling” a listen when my long commute first began. Give yourself some time to explore. You’ll soon learn what kind of narrator you prefer, which narrators you don’t like, and what genres work best for you!
  • Give yourself time to adjust. Listening to a book vs. Reading requires new skills so choose a book you’ve read before so that you can start learning how to follow along. It sounds silly but learning a new skill takes time and the more you can do to set yourself up for success the easier you’ll find it!

Among my favorites are books narrated with a British accent, books with magic or magical realism, mysteries (but so far only magical or sci fi mysteries), and science fiction. I haven’t started in on nonfiction titles yet–but I’ve got some ideas of books I might like.

I’m always looking for new books to try and I’ve stopped feeling guilty when a book does not work for me. I recently tried to listen to “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling, and only 10 minutes in I knew that this was a book I needed to read. It was becoming just too much to listen to.

The joy of listening to audio books is the same (but different!) joy in reading books. It’s only that you are immersed in the book in an entirely new and different way. Where reading is a very private, secluded, and often lonely endeavor, listening to an audio-book can be done with a car full of friends! Listening to “The Martian” by Andy Weir with my husband made the experience so much more fun and interesting! I got to hear his point of view and we were both on the edges of our seats while listening.

Get Listening!

What do I read next?

17 Mar

I have a lot of conversations with people about books. Being a librarian this isn’t really surprising but what is surprising is the constant need people seem to have to justify to me, as a librarian and, presumably, as a book snob, that they do in fact read A LOT. If a patron isn’t justifying to me their reading preferences then they are confessing to me why they haven’t been reading (read two Dickens, one Atwood, and a collection of essays and thou art forgiven!). Usually people don’t have time or they can’t find the right book. As a librarian my job, generally speaking, is to help people find what they are looking for and usually what they are looking for is a book that will live up to the last book they read that was amazing. This isn’t always true but many times during a readers advisory interview (I sound so fancy!) I learn that the last book they loved was so wonderful and so engrossing and they want one JUST LIKE THAT. This is difficult for lots of reasons but usually if I can sell a book hard enough to them they almost always come back loving it. This doesn’t always work but usually if I listen well enough and tell them I loved a book a lot they will go away happy and come back beaming.

I enjoy my job. A lot. Even my colleagues sometimes tell me that I “like book A LOT. Like, A LOT.” (let’s be real  here: I haven’t read all the books and there will always be people smarter and people who are more well read than me). I love hearing it and I really do love books. The problem for me though is when I read a book I really love and I don’t know how to get out of that haze. You know the haze. The just-read-a-novel-that-challenged-me-and-now-I-only-want-to-read-a-book-that-will-give-me-that-reading-high haze. It’s the haze we all go through when we love a book so thoroughly, when we live with a book and learn from a book, that we never ever want to read another book because…what if it isn’t AS good as that book? We will lose that “so in love never break up with me” feeling we had with the last book we read.

Somehow, and I know we’ve all been there, this book so engulfs us that we suddenly find ourselves uninterested in reading at all. I know we’ve all been there because it happened to me recently. I’ve become that patron who can’t decide on what to read, decides she wants to read all the books, takes home six or seven and then ends up owing like $10 in late fees because she keeps telling herself to avoid the library at all cost to save embarrassment from the librarians that she “read” six books in three weeks when in reality she just watched all of True Blood for the second time. The shame!

Here’s my advice: Just do it. Just pick up the next book on your to-read shelf and read. Even if this isn’t your problem and you’re just full of excuses why you can’t pick up another book: just do it. Just do it! Just. Do. It. If you want to be a better reader or you want to find another gem in the wide world of published texts you have to read. In order to be a reader you have to read and being in love with a book and not wanting to sully its memory of how great you felt while reading it isn’t the right way to love books. Not all books will be homeruns but there are lots of books worth reading. If you’re having an especially hard time like I have been having give yourself 50 pages. 50 pages to like the book or you’d done. Then forgive yourself for not finishing a book. Life is too short to invest your precious time on a book that 50 or 100 pages into it you know you are probably going to keep hating. We’ve all abandoned books and guess what? Those books will hopefully still be there if we are ever ready for them again.

I know this honeymoon period is great. You’re still all “that book just got me.” And “Book, you were so amazing. How did I live my life before I had you?” Don’t worry: You can re-read it next year.